Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Spending bill has more for bridges, but even less for BUILD grants, most of which went to rural counties in 2018

Rural counties, as a whole, didn't gain much if anything from the federal spending bill signed last week. It included an extra $75 million for bridge repairs compared to 2018, which one policy expert called the "biggest identifiable win for rural counties," Dave Nyczepir reports for Route Fifty.

However, the bill included only $900 million for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants, down from $1.5 billion last year. Seventy percent of BUILD grants in 2018 went to rural counties for infrastructure projects, Nyczepir reports. The grants, once known as TIGER grants, began as part of the stimulus package in the Great Recession.

Bridges are one of the top priorities this year for the National Association of Counties, according to Jessa Jennings, its associate legislative director for transportation and infrastructure. "I have no doubt that this does not address the backlog," Jennings told Nyczepir. "I’m sure we need more funding, but with the state of the bridges and roads as it is … an increase for the bridge program is definitely a big win for us."

The American Society of Civil Engineers says 9.1 percent of U.S. bridges — about 56,000 — are structurally deficient, and estimates that $123 billion is needed for repairs and maintenance of bridges nationwide.

No comments: